Sharing The Future: Brands And Content

by , Oct 24, 2012, 9:15 AM
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Whenever I’m asked about “The Future Of Media” and what it might look like, I recognize that pretty much whatever I say is going to be wrong.  Not completely, but at least in some degree.

After all, unless one states the obvious, talking about something in a future so close that it’s practically inevitable or predicting something so bland and all-encompassing that you’re really not saying anything, make  the chances of being wholly right heavily stacked against you.

And that’s fine. The point of future-gazing doesn’t have to be to score 100%.  No thought-provoking, creative or genuinely stimulating prediction worth it’s salt was ever completely correct.  Being at least partly wrong is what it’s all about -- or at least embracing the probability and going with the flow.

That definitely applies to those questions about The Future of Media partly because genuinely disruptive innovations in our use of technology are hard to predict, but also because we have to contend with the innate unpredictability of human nature, which influences the adoption or otherwise of emerging media, new technologies and what they offer.

There are two practical ways to address a subject where there is so much to discuss that one runs the risk of actually inhabiting the future you started out describing before the conversation is over.

The first is to resort to the macro and the other to the micro.  Both are equally valid.

My macro response is typically based around the word “More."  More screens, more interactivity, more mobility, more data, more interoperability, more personalization, more fragmentation, more time spent with media, more choice, more consumer-control, more content, more risk, more opportunity etc.  

It’s probably the ultimate redux of an the over-arching trend in media.  It doesn’t mean every consumer will engage with More in More ways, but there will be many more options for what and how we engage with content and media.

To answer the question at a micro level is really the only other sensible option. Whether opting for the impact of mobility, the future of the broadcast schedule in an on-demand world, the possibilities for nanotechnology within the media landscape or anything else that is relevant, you pick your subject and take aim.

One candidate for the micro approach to contemplating the future is the future of content creation and the relationship between brands, agencies, producers and media owners.

In the ever-morphing media ecosystem, brands and their agencies, content producers and media owners continue to explore how best to leverage all suitable platforms in an integrated fashion where content concepts and marketing plans are natively cross-platform to deliver maximum ROI against a range of metrics.

Although brand integration and brand-initiated content is far from new, this area is entering a new era where we can expect an increase in activity across a wider range of brands and a higher degree of sophistication in how such concepts are developed, produced and leveraged.

It’s also likely that the relationships between the stakeholders will evolve.  As brands are increasingly becoming content producers themselves, how long will it be before they start to form more strategic alliances with production talent in the same way that Hollywood Studios used to have actors on contrac? The relationship may be different, but as the business of producing professional video for mass audiences is far from any brand’s core expertise, some kind of affiliation with production companies and their creative talent would make sense.

If this comes to pass, will we see content pitches to networks coming bundled with cross-platform ad budgets and point of purchase marketing plans? I wouldn’t suggest that the risk inherent in the content business wouldn’t be tough for some brands to bear -- but others are already thinking along these lines. 

There are some major attendant issues to address, not the least of which is how core metrics for success will be measured across an entire integrated content-centric initiative, but the research industry is already moving to address these sorts of issues.

Will everything I’m suggesting  come true exactly as laid out? Certainly not.  Some brands will engage in this space more than others, and there will be different types of relationships formed between different players.  But for those involved in the production of great content that resonates with audiences and can extend their creativity to working with brands, success beckons.

Not all brands will do it, but the integration of brands and content is going to become more sophisticated and more mainstream.  One unanswered question relates to where the budgets will come from.

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